Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

Forrest Fenn’s Treasure: Be Careful Out There!


The Chest! photograph by Forrest Fenn

In my January 13, 2013, post I told you about the $2 million treasure chest hidden in Northern New Mexico by antiquities dealer Forrest Fenn. Seems at least one person threw caution to the wind last week as she searched for the pot of gold, rubies and diamonds.

A woman from Texas hit the trail searching for the illusive treasure, first hiking the area around Bandelier National Monument and then climbing down the Rio Grande and up the Falls Trail.  When she turned around to head home, the rain began, the sun went down and she became lost. After spending a very cold night outside, she retraced her steps and found her way back to her car.

Search and rescue brought dog teams, three aircraft and people power to the rescue before she found herself.

So the moral of the story is this: Treasure hunters beware! Stay on the marked trails, remember that the weather in New Mexico can change on a dime, and always tell someone where you will be hiking. The monument officials add the reminder that it is illegal to dig or bury an item on federal lands, but I have to wonder if that law  deterred Mr. Fenn.


Snow Poems Project

A candle burns
upside down
break: light turns.
by Lauren Whitehurst

Months ago, I noticed a poem pop up on the window of a local coffee shop. The poem is stenciled in temporary spray snow. Then another one popped up on yet another business. And another one. And another one, all over Santa Fe.   I got curious. 

Seems “Snow Poem 2013 in Santa Fe” is a community art project sponsored by Cut+Paste and the Santa Fe Art Institute. These are original poems written by locals in Snow Poems workshops, in schools, and from open submissions to the Snow Poems website.

Today, February 22, is the closing ceremony for the project called Night of Illumination. The event, from 6-8 P.M. at the Santa Fe Community Gallery on 201 W. Marcy Street, will include walking tours, refreshments and Snow Poem Hear Here Choir with Molly Sturges.

“The poems will be washed away as light begins to signal spring at the end of February,” according to the brochure. We are approaching the end of February, so go to the website www.snowpoemsproject.com, copy the map and wander around Santa Fe to enjoy the poems written by Santa Feans for your enjoyment.

Floating from
the heavens
wildly dancing ’round.
by Mateo Martinez

are the morals
of the feud.
by Jesse Wood


This is the day that decides by itself to be beautiful.
The field is a bride. How are we to say goodbye?
by Henry Shukman

Slurp in a heart of foam.
by Teresita Gonzales

Forrest Fenn’s Treasure Chest Awaits You!

The Chest! photograph by Forrest Fenn

Santa Fe is the City Different for too many reasons to list, but I think one of the main reasons is our vast number of true characters. One of those characters is Forrest Fenn. Forrest has been a treasure hunter, some would say grave robber, for sixty years. Think a mummified falcon from King Tut’s tomb, Sitting Bull’s peace pipe, a 2,000 year old necklace.

For over twenty years he ran a famous and prestigious gallery selling art and antiquities near the Old Santa Fe Trail. He became famous for his Indiana Jones personae and rich lifestyle. His clients were famous, too,  like John Wayne, Jackie Kennedy, Ralph Lauren, and President Ford, just to name a few.

Forrest is now around 82 years old. The twinkle in his eye and love of life on a large stage remains. That he is alive is a bit of a surprise to him. Several years ago he was diagnosed with cancer. Like any true adventurer, he came up with a dramatic plan for his death. Rather than die in a hospital bed, he filled a chest full of gold, jewelry with rubies, sapphires and diamonds, and ancient treasures and planned to walk out into the desert to die. As fate would have it, his plan was curtailed when he up and lived.

So what to do? He had already filled the chest. If you are Forrest Fenn, you go up into the mountains north of Santa Fe and hide the chest chock full of nearly two million dollars worth of treasures. You also write a memoir “The Thrill of the Chase,” which, according to Forrest,  includes all the clues you need to find the chest. The memoir is only available for sale at Collected Works Bookstore. Forrest donated the books to the store. A percentage from the sale of each book goes to charity.

So come on out to Santa Fe, head to Collected Works for a copy of his book, dress warmly and start looking. A pot of gold is waiting for you in them there hills. Oh, and bring a copy of this  twenty-four line poem which Forrest says contains all the clues. It may not be a literary masterpiece but it is worth over two million dollars:

“As I have gone alone in there

And with my treasures bold,

I can keep my secret where,

And hint of riches new and old.


Begin it where warm waters halt

And take it in the canyon down,

Not far, but too far to walk.

Put in below the home of Brown.


From there it’s no place for the meek,

The end is ever drawing nigh;

There’ll be no paddle up your creek,

Just heavy loads and water high.


If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,

Look quickly down, your quest to cease,

But tarry scant with marvel gaze,

Just take the chest and go in peace.


So why is it that I must go

And leave my trove for all to seek?

The answers I already know,

I’ve done it tired and now I’m weak.


So hear me all and listen good,

Your efforts will be worth the cold.

If you are brave and in the wood

I give you title to the gold.


Footnote: Thanks to a reader in West Virginia for reminding me of the story of Forrest and his treasure chest.


My General Schwarzkopf Story

At the end of May 1991, sometime after the first Gulf War, I spent a long weekend vacation in New Mexico, traveling from my home in Atlanta where I worked for CNN. I had no agenda. I meandered. On the High Road to Taos I saw a sign that said something like “Oviedo Carvings & Bronze.” I turned right and up the hill.

There I met Marco Oviedo. After I admired his beautiful carvings, he introduced me to his enormous Andalucian Mammoth Jacks. At that moment I knew what had to be done when I returned home. It was my mission to let General Schwarzkopf know what I had discovered in the mountains of New Mexico. This is the letter I wrote to the General, who I heard had a great sense of humor:

This is the letter the General wrote to me in response:

As it turns out, the General traveled to New Mexico on vacation where he met both Marco and his namesake Stormy Norman. Marco said they had a great chat. The General much admired Stormy. Marco explained to the General that Stormy’s main job these days was providing stud service. In a spur of the moment decision and in tribute to the General, Marco vowed to contribute a percentage of Stormy’s next stud fee to the General’s favorite charity. And he did.

Rest in peace, General.

Next Stop: Anger Management Class

I saw this car  parked in the co-op grocery store parking lot. The co-op carries organic produce and “green” products.  Has the green movement adopted a new take no prisoners approach or is the Jolly Green Giant  trapped inside this car trying to get out? What’s your take?

Signs of Our Times

Santa Fe is the City Different in so many ways. I do appreciate the time some businesses take to make their point with a little humor. This sign in front of Mail Call (in their former location) is a great example.

Then we have this sign posted in the window of our grocery co-op. Perhaps they should start screening their members.

I just like the juxtaposition on this one.

©Catherine Trapani

This sign is near the Plaza in Taos.

I know I showed you this sign before in the piece about my having my passport photo taken, but it still makes me shake my head and laugh, despite the sad fact the humor was not intentional.

Signing off for today….

Command Traffic Lights

When the traffic light was first introduced, folks had no idea what those colors meant. In order to educate people, words were printed on the colors. These were called Command Traffic Lights. As you can see in this model from the 1930′s,  green is “go,” yellow is “caution” and red is “stop.”

When I saw this Command Traffic Light at the Classical Gas Museum in Embudo, NM, it occurred to me that it is time to bring them out of the museums and install them back on the street. I think it’s time to remind people that yellow is not just a paler shade of green, and red does not mean time to gun it.

The Museum is located at 1819 Highway 68 in Embudo. Johnnie Meier is open most days, but best to give him a call at 505-852-2995 before you come.

The Classical Gas Museum

Three pumps from 1941-1944

Johnnie Meier, a retired Los Alamos scientist, has a theory that everyone has a proclivity to collect something or another as a remnant of our old hunter gatherer days. I collect antique French textiles which are kept in an armoire. Johnnie, on the other hand, went big. He collects and restores vintage gas pumps, cars, oil cans, clocks, neon signs, diners, S&H Green Stamp books, Coca Cola memorabilia  and old car stuff. And each piece is a work of art and a bit of history.

The Museum Building

Johnnie started “messing around with old cars” as a teenager. He started his serious collecting about 25 years ago. In 1992 he purchased 2 acre in Embudo which sits between Santa Fe and Taos on Highway 68. He built and opened the 1,000 square foot Classical Gas Museum in 1997.

“I love it when people walk into the Museum and say wow,” he says. “The way I have things displayed, they can see the design, see these functional pieces as art as I do. I appreciate the graphic art, the use of color and unique tints.”

1935 Flight Gasoline

I was quite taken with this 1930′s Wayne Model 60 gas pump. “This one is considered one of the most beautiful pumps ever made. It was important to the company that it be beautiful.”

1920′s Powerine Gasoline

Johnnie has provided gas pumps for 6 major motion pictures, including “No Country for Old Men,”  “Wild Hogs,” and the newly released “God Bless Me Ultima.” His museum is the backdrop for fashion shoots and inspiration for artists and photographers. He also sells his restored pumps.

1940′s Indian Gasoline

There is no cost for admission but Johnnie has a big jar collecting dollars for the local animal shelter in Dixon. Last year at Christmas he handed the shelter a check for $1,500.

Polly Gas from 1940′s-1950′s West Coast

If you stop by next weekend you might get a glimpse of  the new Jetta Hybrid being introduced by Volkswagen as well as the vintage pumps. Seems VW is gathering 80 journalists from all over the country to test drive the new car on a route between Santa Fe and Taos. They will be stopping at the Museum, not for gas, but a cool drink from one of the beautiful old coolers.

1957 Chevy Being Restored…NFS

The Museum is located at 1819 Highway 68 in Embudo. Johnnie is open most days, but best to give him a call at 505-852-2995 before you come. Don’t forget to leave a few dollars for the animal shelter.

Sitka the Wonderful


© B Walker

This is Sitka. He is wearing his award winning Halloween costume. Let me just say this up front: My readers unanimously directed me to go stand with my head hung down in the Corner of Shame for dressing Georgia in her ladybug Halloween costume. I feel quite certain I have now been joined by Sitka’s person Betsy Walker, for which I am most grateful.

Sitka, who will be 12 in January, is not just a gorgeous face. Sitka is a trained social therapy dog who obtained his “Canine Good Citizen” certification when he was 2. After playing around being a puppy for 2 years, he started working in earnest through the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society’s pet outreach program.

Sitka in his working vest.

Betsy and Sitka’s first assignment was working at the Santa Maria El Mirador day-hab for folks with assorted challenges. During his 2 years working there, people’s spirits were bolstered by the wonderfulness of Sitka. For example, Betsy told me one day a man was so motivated to walk Sitka in the hallway he rose from his wheelchair and spoke for the first time in over 25 years. That is the power of  love.

Betsy and Sitka then moved on to working at the El Dorado Community School where they still work. Initially Sitka was a “reading dog” for 2nd graders. What is a reading dog? As Betsy explains it, kids who struggle with reading often eventually shut down because they cannot handle faltering repeatedly in front of their peers. Taking them away from the classroom to a quiet place where they read to a dog who could care less if they mispronounce a word tends to give them confidence. The children loved to lie down and use Sitka as a pillow as they read to him, or they sat next to him and held the book so that Sitka could see the pictures as they read to him. Sitka has become a famous and beloved personality in the school.

When the 2nd grade teacher moved to another school, Sitka soon had a new job working with kids of all ages in the special ed classes. Sometimes the kids walk him in the hallway. Sometimes they practice performing Sitka’s favorite tricks with him. Sometimes the kids just give him tummy rubs. Always it is about unconditional love and acceptance.

Bravo Sitka! Brava Betsy! We thank you both for your service.



Tinker Tantrum?

Late yesterday afternoon, I pulled into the grocery store parking lot and saw this little mode of transportation. I ended up parking several rows away, but ran back to take a few photos of the thing marked Tinker Tantrum just so you could see it. The photos are lousy, but with good reason. First, I took these photos with my cell phone while holding my purse and my reusable grocery bag. Second, I embarrass easily and wanted to take the photos as fast as possible without being noticed.

What you cannot see is that the Tinker Tantrum has pedals. Now focus on how low to the ground this thing sits. The entire thing is no higher than the bicycle tire you see in the background.  I should also explain that this grocery store is off Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe, a very busy street.

As I was leaving the parking lot, I saw a tall woman wearing a helmet fold herself into this. This presumably otherwise intelligent woman was about to pedal around on one of Santa Fe’s busiest streets, four inches off the ground while sitting no higher than the tire rims of the adjacent SUV’s and big damn Ford Tundra’s. And we have serious drunk driver issues here.

So here is the question: Do you people who live in the real world have these Tinker Tantrums or is this just another piece of  The City Different bizarreness?